The collapse of the Lebanese state is not a presumption anymore. It is a question of time, unless drastic steps will be taken.
At the outburst of the civil war in 1975, spreading damage and despair all over the country, the Lebanese army disintegrated. Druze officers joined the Druze forces; the Christian officers, the Christian camp; and the Shi’ites and Sunnis did the same, in a paroxysm of chaos.
The Taif Agreement in 1989 put an end to the civil war, adopted steps to make the army more united, coherent and the guarantor to stability. Today, the army does not fear the specter of fragmentation.
Today, the danger is poverty. The soldiers are not receiving their salaries, for lack of currency. This danger might lead to the disintegration of the military institution from within. Corruption, political stalemate, foreign interference – these are the main causes of Lebanon’s maladies.
Hezbollah enjoys the financial assistance of Iran and can preserve its political and military positions. The other groups don’t have such privilege. Therefore, the terrorist organization won’t hesitate to push Lebanon into the abyss. If this will occur, the organization will complete its “mise de main” over all of Lebanon, and behind it stands Iran.
In that case, the situation is no longer a domestic Lebanese problem. It is regional and, what is more, international.
The Biden administration is so far not showing any public interest. France’s president, who a few months ago visited Lebanon twice and offered an emergency plan, has started to lose hope.
The only Lebanese personality who dared to raise the torch of hope is the head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai. He did not hesitate to touch the hot potato of Hezbollah weapons. He called to distance Lebanon from regional conflict and for an international conference to solve the situation.
Besides the strong words, his initiative is like a call in the desert.
Last October and at the US’s instigation, Israel and Lebanon started negotiations to delineate the maritime border. If successful, this will inject billions into the Lebanese economy.
Hezbollah torpedoed these negotiations, fearing a beginning of normalization with Israel. An additional complication is the Lebanese desire to expand its maritime claim by 1,400 kilometers, which would engulf Karish, an Israeli gas field.
In the face of this grim picture, the American administration should again bring Israelis and Lebanese to the negotiation table and strike a deal on the maritime borders, parallel to convening an international conference. Israel should stand strongly behind the US.
The writer served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt.